"Smart bombs and bigger defense packages and armed national guardsmen at airports won't heal our deeper woundedness, even though they might make us feel safer in the short run. Unless we resolve to face it squarely, our horror of vulnerability will continue to fester in our spiritual innards. But because the wound is so painful, the temptation to avoid it by concentrating on immediate threats to national and personal security is overwhelming. We want to believe that all we need to get back to business as usual is to fix the latest mess and then build higher and stronger security barriers.

"The deeper challenge of 9/11 is to confess our dread of insecurity and our obsession with safety, and then to ask ourselves if either really makes any sense. Most of us just naturally assume that invulnerability is a desirable state. But is it? What if the unintended consequences of safety zones and security barriers are isolation, alienation, self-absorption, an erosion of fellow-feeling, and a ratcheting-up of the very anxiety we hope to avoid? What if our need to be untouchable actually does us more harm than good?

"These are questions well worth asking, because confronting our entrenched fear of vulnerability isn't just an exercise in political or social analysis. First and foremost, it's an occasion for spiritual scrutiny. This is especially the case for those of us who are Christians, because our dread of vulnerability is strikingly inconsistent with our faith. As Martin Smith discomfortingly reminds us, 'We sin by thinking and acting as if other forces in the world were actually more powerful than the creative love of God and thus had to be submitted to on their own terms.'

"The gospel tells us, "Be not afraid!" The good news is that Christ's entry into a precarious world has subverted fear, freeing his followers from the age-old dread of insecurity.

"For the most part, we Christians have assumed we should be unafraid because we are under Christ's protection and thus insulated from worldly dangers. But this is false. When we're told not to be afraid, the implication isn't that God's patronage somehow makes us invulnerable (the roll call of martyrs tells us this much), but rather than vulnerability isn't anything that ought to panic us. Insecurity we will always have with us. The trick is to accept it — indeed, to embrace it — as a necessary and even welcome part of the human condition. It is only be balancing on the edge, dancing on the margin, that we become fully human. This is how Jesus himself lived, and it is the way he encouraged us to live. When we shy away from his invitation to vulnerability, we become underground creatures who give up sunshine and fresh air for the sake of a false security. We enclose ourselves in subterranean bunkers that may look impregnable from the outside but are dank and suffocating on the inside.

"Or we become proper churchgoing Christians so haunted by our fear of Christ's lifestyle that, in times of crisis, we flip off peaceniks and loudly champion war. We are driven to terrified despair, timorously concluding that 9/11 forever changed the world and forgetting, as theologian Stanley Hauerwas reminds us, that in fact it was A.D. 33 that forever changed the world."

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